On 23 June, the second day of the Future Forum served as a space for discussion for the potential of diaspora engagement to catalyse green transitions. During one kick-off discussion and three complementary sessions, twelve speakers representing the European Commission, governments, diaspora members, academia and international organisations gathered to share insights and discuss emerging trends and pressing issues around ‘going green’. Project Officer Hala Tarabay reflects on some of the day’s highlights in advance of a full conference report.
After the sessions on our first day dug into some of the traditional diaspora-engagement topics such as national policies, political representation and diaspora voting rights, to narrow the focus down to green transitions, we kicked off the second day with an intimate discussion between Stefano Signore, DG INTPA, and Kishore Reddy, a diasporan who co-founded an NGO in India Youth for Sustainable Impact (YSI). The two highlighted the relevance of the European Green Deal to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and how it relates to diaspora and green local development, concluding that building multi-stakeholder partnerships is central to achieve the Green Deal and to successfully mainstream environmental protection, combatting climate change and disaster risk reduction at global level. With the EU having recognised the special role that diaspora can have in generating solutions and opportunities for development, it becomes a key player in the multi-stakeholder partnerships central to the EU’s effort to build a more sustainable future.
“There are innovative local initiatives with the diaspora that are very relevant for the implementation of the Green Deal, for example: crowdfunding to finance public infrastructure, such as in Moldova, and sending remittances home in the form of renewable energy such as in Rwanda” Stefano Signore Head of Climate Change and Sustainable Energy; Nuclear Safety at DG International Partnerships
The particular added-value of recognising and involving diaspora in green transitions comes from their ability and interest in acting as a bridge between the EU and grassroots initiatives in countries of heritage. As a partner in this ambitious green agenda, diaspora can – and already are are – supporting the ethos “think globally, act locally” through:
- Advocacy in countries of origin and destination
- Knowledge transfer to the country of origin
- Green business creation
Although relatively new as a diaspora-engagement focus, there is a growing body of diaspora-led green initiatives and research, some of which are listed in our green initiatives list. Such practices were discussed in the subsequent sessions of the Going Green day, with speakers sharing hands-on experience on the potential of diaspora in green transitions.
Diaspora 4 Green: Research Agenda
Stella Opoku-Owusu from Afford UK, Epiphanie Pyalo Magnoudewa Kilimou from #diasporavote!, and Guillaume Quelin and Juliette Darlu from GRET contributed to the blueprint of EUDiF’s upcoming case study on mobilising diaspora for green transitions. With a special focus paid to green investment, the panel discussed the importance of promoting coherent and aligned national programmes and policies for green investments. Coupled with enabling conditions for green economy investments, and awareness-raising activities on these opportunities, diaspora’s work could be amplified. The panel insisted on using existing diaspora structures and scaling them up rather than spending resources on creating others.
Diaspora Partnerships for Climate Resilient Communities
A multi-stakeholder panel from academia, governments and civil society discussed the role that diaspora groups could play in reducing climate change-induced displacement and building climate resilience. The speakers John Marazita III, Director of the Environmental Mobility Research Unit at the University of Geneva, Pefi Kingi QSM, Founder of Pacificwin, and Anare Leweniqila, Deputy Permanent Representative at the Permanent Representation to the UN in Geneva, Fiji touched upon good practices, such as the provision of spaces for diaspora groups to contribute to climate-related dialogue and advocacy in their countries of destination and the role of local communities to lead reconstruction processes and to participate in and own the process of building back from climate emergencies.
A particular highlight was discussion of Fiji’s extensive experience putting in place policies to engage with its diaspora during post-disaster response and recovery such as:
- Establishing a disaster trust fund into which diaspora could contribute remittances, to be used for food rations and for the transportation of relief goods.
- Improving coordination mechanisms between diaspora communities and operators on the ground during emergency operations.
Diaspora 4 Green: Catalysing action
The last green session of the day featured Suthan Kethees, Co-founder of Comdu.it, Genevieve Parker-Twum, Incubation and Acceleration Specialist on the GrEEn Project in Ghana and Professor Binod Khadria from the Global Research Forum on Diaspora and Transnationalism (GRFDT). They shared five recommendations to build on for future work in this field:
- Build trust with the diaspora, it will bring in both monetary (e.g. investment) and non-monetary (e.g. time and loyalty) commitments to green transitions.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Instead transfer and adapt successful green business models to the country of origin.
- Go beyond sharing ideas and institutionalise green ideas and projects to ensure their sustainability.
- Empower early adopters at local level, they can then cascade their knowledge and skills, and help boost uptake within the community.
- Be patient! Building trust and partnerships is a long journey that starts with an assessment of local needs and continues and grows by constantly engaging with different stakeholders in a holistic manner.
While an explicit role for diaspora role in green action is relatively new, it is already evident that there is a wealth of action and knowledge in this field. Future green initiatives could build on the successes of existing initiatives to incorporate diaspora as facilitators of resources, financial and non-financial, taking into account that young diasporans are particularly engaged in the subject area and therefore a source of ideas and energy to push green agendas forward around the world.
After the formal going-green sessionss, we wrapped-up the day with a somewhat experimental online networking that offered an informal setting in which to speak with some of the speakers from various sessions at the Future Forum, as well as other special guests. The session attracted over 60 participants, meeting and moving between five themes: technology & community building, remittances and investment for development, humanitarianism, youth engagement and representation & diversity.
The networking was run in partnership with the UN Major Group for Children and Youth and was the perfect way to warm up for day three of the forum, focused on youth, but more on that tomorrow!
Although green transitions is a less established topic within diaspora engagement, the Going Green day shows that this is a growth area, one of particular interest and relevance to younger generations within diasporas. We hope to see an increasing number of initiatives initiated or involving diaspora in catalysing green transitions in countries of destination and heritage – if you are interesting proposing such an action, get in touch to discuss possible collaborations.
Words: Hala Tarabay